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Ski-lift fire kills 155 in Kaprun, Austria

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(Note: The following article is out of date, but we've left it online for its historic value and as a memorial to the fire's victims.)

At least 155 skiers--and possibly more--were killed when a car of the Gletscherbahn Kaprun 2 funicular burst into flames above Kaprun, Austria on Saturday, November 11, 2000. The fire occurred inside a tunnel as the funicular hauled skiers toward the slopes of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier.

Another dozen skiers escaped by breaking a window with a ski.

Of the 155 known victims, most were from Austria and Germany--including a group of 32 Austrians from the town of Wels in Upper Austria. American, British, Czech, Dutch, Japanese, and Slovenian skiers were also reported killed on the first day of the Austrian ski season.

Salvage operations were hampered by smoke in the tunnel until late Sunday, more than 24 hours after the tragedy. The reason for the fire still isn't known.

The two cars of the Gletscherbahn Kaprun 2 funicular have safely transported millions of skiers and tourists from Kaprun valley to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier since 1974. The system was modernized in 1994 and passed a safety inspection in October of this year. It is believed to be the first funicular ski lift to operate primarily inside a mountain, with a tunnel making up 3500 meters of its 3900-meter length.


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